So warns marketer & blogger Lewis Green, pointing us to a very useful article at CNET News on the crucial importance of headlines in driving web traffic. With a huge proportion of web browsing driven by the use of search engines, headlines should — and can — be written adroitly to appeal to the search bots that do the scanning.

The CNET article focuses on the dilemma of newspapers, whose print editors lean toward brief, provocative often non-literal headlines to catch our eye, which their online versions must transform into longer, more literal headlines if they wish to catch the attention of search engines.

The article relates an amusing case where an article with “Green Beans” in its headline is really about a coffee chain … how would a search engine know?!

The Boston Globe is singled out as being very good at this. Its print edition ranks 15th in the nation in circulation, while its online edition ranks 4th … a superior online performance attributed to the Globe's embracing of search engine optimization (SEO).

So for nonprofit communicators, if your traditional newsletter writers are crafting your web content as well, you might want to give some thought as to whether SEO principles are being heeded.

Lewis Green summarizes the key points as follows, but the full CNET article is definitely worth a read …

1. Witty and provocative headlines are often useless and even counterproductive in getting the Web page ranked high in search engines.
2. Think about what the story is about and be as clear as possible.
3. Create a more literal Web headline.
4. Be more direct.
5. Make the headline stand out.

You might notice that The Agitator violates these rules from time to time. We're still learning! But in our defense, most of our readers have heard about us through direct referrals … it doesn't look like many nonprofit marketers randomly browse use search terms like “fundraising” or “nonprofit marketing” and such. We'll see.

Roger & Tom

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